Sunday, July 15, 2012

You've Got the Power

I have been struggling this week to put together even a slightly coherent, remotely passionate thought. This is odd for me, as I tend to be the conversational equivalent of one of those Chatty Cathy dolls. Ask me a question, pull my string and I am off and running. I could pretty much talk forever. I have an opinion on everything and know just enough about many things to carry my own in a verbal exchange. When it comes to subject matter, I can skim a surface or dive into the deep. I can flit about in boas and pearls, talking frou frou and fun, or get all school-girl serious in my nerd glasses and Mary Janes, going places other writers won’t touch.

I am just not feeling incredibly passionate this week about much of anything.

I am, however, giving it the proverbial college try. I went back to school this week after ten years out of the classroom. That’s exciting, but apparently not enough to spark any words. I did post an essay earlier this week, but it meant nothing to me. It was an excellent example of writing just to write. I picked up a book tonight, a writer’s book, Barbara Abercrombie’s A Year of Writing Dangerously. I’ve lost the page, but the first thing I opened to was a quote by a guy talking to his friend as the two of them jogged past Abercrombie on the beach, “You sit down every day, and you just fucking do it.” That’s exactly what the essay was to me, just sitting down and doing it. I even tried to find inspiration in a Facebook post. There was a photo of a ninety-some-year old woman with the question, “When you’re her age, what will matter most to you?” What would matter most to me is that I gave my priorities priority time, that I loved people for who they were and not who I wished they would be, that I surrounded myself with people who made me smile and laugh and think and that, in turn, I did the same for them, that I never gave up on myself, that I found work and play that brought me joy and helped me radiate that joy to those around me, that I lived a kind and gentle life, that I accepted myself as the person I was and not the person I felt others felt I should be.

Nope. Nothing.

Then a friend was bragging about how he now had power. An outage had left him without air conditioning during near hundred-degree days. He was thrilled to once again be living in a climate-controlled environment. I’ve got power. And in my weird take-an-idea-someplace-completely-unrelated sort of way, I thought of the library guy.

After a good long morning in the children’s room, making puppet shows, working gigantic floor puzzles, reading, and spouting off the scientific names of all the plastic dinosaurs, I drag my two eager readers upstairs to check out our books. As I turn to grab their unwieldy stack, I notice behind me an older gentleman with a longish white beard. He is short and serious looking, dressed in stereotypical professor garb with glasses that slip down his nose a bit. He looks at the kids, then at me. He smiles and nods and says with absolutely no context at all, “You’re a writer.” A statement. The librarian needs my attention. I turn back to address her before I can respond to the elderly gentleman. When I have finished, I look around to question the mystery man. He is gone. Was he ever really there? Did he actually say that? Who was this guy, and why did he feel the need to contribute to a non-conversation?

He had the power.

I have been influenced as much in my life by random strangers as I have by family, close friends, teachers, and therapists. It is a dry summer day and an elderly neighbor guy is walking past. My front yard is packed with nine and ten-year-old boys playing home run derby. It is a mess of dirt patches, bikes, baseball gloves, water bottles, and discarded t-shirts. I look longingly across at another neighbor’s lush, green, perfectly edged lawn and comment as Random Stranger Neighbor and I exchange polite curbside chat. He says to me, “You can’t grow grass and kids in the same yard.” No advice on parenting has ever struck me more.

He had the power.

I am thinking, too, of the day when I was a young mother of four small children. Everyone was crying, complaining, whining all on the same day, including me. We were in a very public place when I completely lost it. Flustered, frustrated, and at the very end of a very short rope I say in that scary-controlled, sedative-like way I have when I am beyond angry, “I am mad right now at everybody. Every. Body.” An older gentleman walking beside me looks over and says simply, “That’s too bad. That’s really too bad.” And I thought to myself what a waste of a life to spend it angry at others. What a waste of a day. That man is in my head forever.

He had the power.

If I am passionate about anything this week it is that we underestimate the power of our words. I have heard far too many negative words being passed around lately, words that shout contempt and ridicule and hatred. It sickens me. It absolutely sickens me. For my part, I choose to build others up, to spread words of encouragement and love and compassion. I don’t always succeed at this, but I try. I try because I know that I’ve got the power.

And I’d like to give a big Universe shout out to the library guy. He could have easily chastised me that day for the ruckus my kids and I were creating, but no. He used his words to build me up. He used his words to light my path.

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